Have they really failed? Is the enormous settlement project soon to be thrown into the dustbin of history? My colleague, Aluf Benn, answers this big question with a resounding yes; the settlers have indeed suffered an amazing failure. In a well-reasoned article on March 16, he explains that in light of the "convergence" plan espoused by Ehud Olmert, the grandiose settlement project is on the verge of dismantlement. The settlers failed to sweep up enough Jews in their wake to settle in the territories, and they disengaged from the broader public and remained marginal. They did not fulfill any security role during the war against terror.
But, even though with all my heart I would like to believe him, even though the settlers have not succeeded in achieving "a Greater Land of Israel," they are still far from failure, and the struggle to save the nation of Israel from them is going to take a long time and will carry a heavy toll in blood.
It is difficult to predict who will defeat whom - Judea over Israel, or Israel over Judea. Because it is possible that the zealots, lunatics, and messianic who sanctify land over humanity, will nonetheless manage to lead Israel to suicide. Olmert's plan refers to converging settlements into "beefed up settlement blocs" and changing the separation fence route - and that's a success for the settlers, because they know there is nobody on the other side who would accept such a unilateral plan.
The entire West Bank is 6,000 square kilometers - about 30 percent of all of Israel on the eve of 1967 - but even that little bit official Israel refuses to relinquish, because there are "facts on the ground" - facts determined by the settlers. So, Olmert proposes an impossible solution: three beefed up settlement blocs that carve up the West Bank and make the Palestinian entity non-viable.
The large Ariel bloc will carve the center of the West Bank, the Ma'ale Adumim bloc will be connected to Jerusalem via E1, and cut the West Bank in half. Gush Etzion will stick fingers to Kiryat Arba and take a bite out of the south. Does anyone really believe it is possible to find a single Palestinian who would agree to such a solution? Will there be a single country in the world that will agree to such annexations?
The massive annexation will lead in only one clear direction: a continuation of war. No to agreement, no to negotiations, no to peace and quiet. And if Hamas can't deliver the goods, the Palestinians, more desperate than ever, will move to Al-Qaida. And we will continue to live by the sword and pay with our children's blood to the real estate Moloch until the Armageddon the settlers so want arrives, and it will "clean the territory" or maybe it will "clean" us. That's why they have not yet failed. Not at all.
There is one main area in which they have really succeeded: turning the disengagement from Gaza into a trauma, raising its price sky high. Indeed, the original budget for the evacuation of 7,000 people was NIS 5.5 billion, but meanwhile, it has been inflated to NIS 10 billion.
This is a government that does not have NIS 500 million for a war against traffic accidents, or NIS 400 million to update its medical services basket. But it has NIS 5.3 billion for unplanned expenses in the disengagement budget. As a result, the price tag for the removal of 70,000 settlers from the West Bank will reach a sum of such extraordinary proportions that nobody will be able to pay for it.
And the settlers have achieved other success in the realm of propaganda. They managed to camouflage the clear connection between the enormous costs of the settlements and the dire economic straits of broad strata of Israeli society. The public still does not get the fact that if we had not invested billions in the territories, that money could have gone into development towns and poor neighborhoods, into education, health, vocational training, investments in roads and rails - and then the poverty line would be somewhere else entirely, the social gaps would be much smaller, and Israeli society would be much healthier.
Indeed, the data show that the poverty and social gaps began to widen from the middle of the 1970s, exactly when the spending on settlements and their security in the territories began to grow. There is a clear connection between the miserable state of the highways, the non-existent interchanges, and the lethal accidents within the boundaries of the Green Line, and the bridges, tunnels and advanced highways built for West Bank settlers.
They've also concealed the fact that Israel's GDP is half of what is acceptable in western countries, as a result of enormous expenditures in the territories. The settlers even managed to hide the connection between the violence that has spread like wildfire in society and the "legitimate" violence in the territories. Because if it is permissible to shoot a child to death in the territories without standing trial for it, one can stick a knife into someone who was a little annoying at a discotheque - because the violence does not stop at the Green Line.
But worst of all is their success at blinding the eyes of the public, making it blind to the fact that Israel has become a brutal occupier's state, which executes people without trial, steals land under cover of the courts, demolishes homes, harms the livelihood of innocent people, causes poverty unemployment, and want in an entire population, making a mockery of all that the prophets of Israel taught. Who will remove the ashes from your eyes, Amos, Isaiah, and Jeremiah?
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